Yesterday, we put up the first hummingbird feeder for our new home in the country. We know they are all over this area during spring and summer, but we were hopeful we could attract some to our feeder during this last part of winter. After all, spring is less than a month away, so our expectations are pretty high!
We did some research on our favorite bird web site, Journey North and confirmed the rufous hummingbird is very common in the Pacific Northwest from California to Southeastern Alaska – nesting farther north than any other hummingbird. There are sightings of the rufous (named for its reddish brown color) during winter months, but not its cousin, the ruby-throated hummingbird, which migrates to Central America during the winter. A quick glance at the winter sightings maps shows a distinct difference in their habits.
Apparently, although most rufous migrate south to Mexico and Central America, some are able to winter-over in this area. They accomplish this by going into a state of torpor or dormancy, where their metabolic rate drops substantially to preserve energy. Hard to imagine a hummingbird sitting still, but that’s what keeps them alive. It also explains why you can spot them at feeders during the winter – it helps build up their food reserve when natural sources are not available.
So, with nature as our neighbor, our odds are pretty good we will see the rufous at our feeder soon. When we do, we’ll report our sighting on the Journey North web site and post pictures here. Check back in a few weeks to see how we did…